“The very first thing I tell my students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.”
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird
The truth. It’s clear we want the truth, even in fiction. We can spot a lie within a fiction story instantly. That character would never do that! And then we get angry. Have you ever watched your favorite TV series and then someone does something completely out of character and it makes you so angry you quit watching? Ahhhh…for the love of ratings!
Great art is about presenting the truth. It has to come honestly from the heart, not from the desire to shock or manipulate emotions or increase your follower count.
Lamott emphasizes throughout her book the importance of allowing the characters to come to you and to reveal themselves to you. She cautions against inserting dialogue, action and plot that doesn’t emanate naturally from the characters. It will sound forced because it IS forced.
I’m not a painter, sculptor, photographer or actor, but I believe this philosophy pertains to all arts. As a famous sculptor once said,
“…a knot of wood or a block of marble made it seem that a figure was already enclosed there and my work consisted of breaking off all the rough stone that hid it from me”.”\
We receive holiday cards, mostly from friends and family but also the occasional acquaintance.
We received a card with one of “those” letters in them. You know what I mean, the ones that review the entire year for every family member in 8 very full paragraphs in 8pt font. Everything that happened was fantastic. Each family member is on his/her way to great success.
This card/letter came from a family with whom we don’t have a personal connection. We never speak on the phone, we never meet up. We are not even Facebook friends. They happen to be real estate agents in the community.
2016 is almost over. I’d like to see some authenticity happen in 2017.
Communications (email, phone, social media, etc.) are time-consuming, both for the sender and the recipient. Wouldn’t it be nice if every attempt at reaching out was genuine? Do you really care to forge a relationship with us? Then be real. Invite us for a meet up. Call. Even an email invitation is acceptable these days.
But please, don’t send a generic “personalized” letter and assume we care. Why should we?